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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443
People in story: 
6th City of London Rifles
Location of story: 
WW2 Battlefields
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2954685
Contributed on: 
29 August 2004

Reminiscences.
Sitting at my computer yesterday I felt an odd scratching feeling on the palm my left hand. Looking down I noticed a small piece of metal protruding which I extracted with a pin, this set me thinking. 1940 August, a gun pit at the junction of the Kent Surrey Sussex borders. All of 16 I was manning an AA Lewis gun. There was a major air battle going on overhead. The air was full of aircraft noise and gunfire, we had already seen 6 aircraft shot down including a Dornier that crashed about 300 yards away, three of the crew had parachuted out but the crashing aircraft caught one parachute on its tail. Suddenly a roar of machine-gun and cannon fire, a Messerschmidt 109 was firing at our gun pit. We had all been watching the battle in the North East and the 109 had come in from the South West
Fleeting Burst.
He must have let a short burst go at us and most rounds hit the gun pit. I managed to swing the gun round and got off a few rounds as he pulled away the plane was smoking as he disappeared at low level to southeast. One or two cannon shells must have come into the gun pit and hit the railway sleeper the gun was mounted on as I got one or two small splinters which have been working their way out ever since. Ted and I argue about this incident, he maintains that are saved his life by pushing him to the bottom of the gun pit, what actually happened was that I knocked him over bringing the gun to bear and I might have done better if he hadn't been in the way. We had this argument again only a few weeks ago
Thinking about the Past.
All this made me think of the people I knew in those days and made me wonder what had happened to them. The pilot of the 109 did he curse me as he was flying a plane instead of being at university? Then there was Tubby what happened to him and of course Wilbur so it goes on there was Milson four years in the trenches 14 -- 18 war, Bassett the cook in the British Army in Dublin during the rising, shooting at a Lewis gunner in the Post Office. His best friend was Paddy with whom he regularly got drunk. Paddy was the Lewis gunner , obviously being an Irishman he thought if you can't beat them join them. The list goes on, Whilshire killed in Normandy, Loftus who had to shave twice a day, Pickett joined the Maritime AA last heard of rescued after four days in an open boat, and many many more.
The Unit.
6th City of London Rifles (Cast Iron 6th) formed as a territorial unit prior to World War I headquarters Farringdon Street, London E.C. wiped out in one day on the Western Front re-formed converted to searchlights as the 31st S/L Regiment R.E.T.A. and moved to drill halls on the out skirts of SW London up to strength with territorial soldiers on mobilisation 1939 and deployed in south-east England converted to 123rd LAA Regiment Royal Artillery and landed with the 3rd Division in Normandy. Re-formed after a second world war as a LAA Regiment in the same area. Now disbanded but the drill halls are still there.
Today.
Of those thousand men who paraded August -- September 1939 who said goodbye to their families little thinking that it would be 6 long years before returning,How many are left now? And those that came back did anybody want to listen to them to know what they experienced? They had been away out of the shortages and bombing and flying bombs etc.. So they shut up and tried to forget the past. This September spare a thought for them.

And they received each for his own memory praise that will never die;

And with it the grandest of all sepulchres-

Not that in which their mortal remains are hid-

But a home in the minds of men.

Pericles

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Message 1 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by Andy1971

Thanks for posting that John, I enjoyed reading that. Its great to be able to read these about the memories of veterans such as your self.

I know a veteran of the 3rd British ID and he has some shrapnel still in his hand, he says he gets a magnet now and then to find it.

Andy

 

Message 2 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

John -
Guess where I got a load of shrapnel - you got it - right where I have to be careful when I sit on a hard chair - and other spots all over the place - hauled a sliver out a few months ago - been in there for 60 years !

 

Message 3 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear John

Yet another superb contribution from you. How apt the immortal words of Pericles, some 2,500 years old, are now.

You quote some words from the funeral oration Pericles gave for the fallen Athenian soldiers in the early part of the Peloponnesian War.

Here is a more modern translation, by Walter Blanco, rather than that of Jowett:

"They offered up their bodies for the common good and took for themselves that undying praise and that most distinctive tomb - not the one in which they lie, but the one in which their fame remains to be eternally remembered in word and deed on every fitting occasion. The whole world is the tomb of famous men. Not just an inscribed tablet in their homeland commemorates them, but an unwritten memorial that lives on not in a monument, but in the minds of even strangers."

How eloquently Pericles put it for all of us all those many centuries ago!

 

Message 4 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

Tom.
Thank you for your post. In my ward after Normandy was a Canadian platoon commander who suffered the same problem. He spent his time lying on his face. When asked what his problem was he paraphrased "Got any Gum Chum" to "Got a sore Bum Chum". There were two other platoon commander's also in the ward one had caught a burst of machine pistol rounds but fortunately every round hit his Sten gun and he only lost the top of his little finger. His Bren gunner finished the problem for him. The 3rd platoon commander had a stick bomb burst on his helmet. So when offered the choice of platoon commander Northwest Europe or Troop Commander in Burma I thought Burma was the better option. Changing the subject slightly but in the same sort of area. I was walking down a field some years later with a contractor when I stepped over electric fence. I turned to him and said "That fence is on" He was a little shorter than me and replied "Yes I know they just jumped up around my neck". Hopefully the same precautions were taken by you.
Yours Aye
John

 

Message 5 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 29 August 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

Tom.
Thank you for your post. In my ward after Normandy was a Canadian platoon commander who suffered the same problem. He spent his time lying on his face. When asked what his problem was he paraphrased "Got any Gum Chum" to "Got a sore Bum Chum". There were two other platoon commander's also in the ward one had caught a burst of machine pistol rounds but fortunately every round hit his Sten gun and he only lost the top of his little finger. His Bren gunner finished the problem for him. The 3rd platoon commander had a stick bomb burst on his helmet. So when offered the choice of platoon commander Northwest Europe or Troop Commander in Burma I thought Burma was the better option. Changing the subject slightly but in the same sort of area. I was walking down a field some years later with a contractor when I stepped over electric fence. I turned to him and said "That fence is on" He was a little shorter than me and replied "Yes I know they just jumped up around my neck". Hopefully the same precautions were taken for you.
Yours Aye
John

 

Message 6 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 30 August 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

John -
I didn't get entangled in any fences as I had enough to worry about !

Strange you opted for Burma... I was hauled up and 'asked' if I cared to join other Tank crews who were lining up for six months leave in the U.K. to be followed by a leisurely cruise out to Burma. I asked if there were alternative courses to follow and was told that Tank crews were also needed in Greece to stem the flow of the nasty Communists OR Austria where all that was happening was rounding up the bad guy stragglers ....SO... I joined the 6th Armed Div in Austria !

Great choice
regards

 

Message 7 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 30 August 2004 by John de Mansfield AbsolonResearcher 238443

Hi Tom.
Thanks for your post. Having been with 50 Div from the 6 June in Normandy I had a rough idea of the wastage rate of subalterns in the infantry in North West Europe in the coming winter 44 -- 45.. So, having the choice I took a chance on the Indian Army as a Troop Commander. I thought a slit trench full of warm water might be better than one filled with ice. What would you have done?.
Yours Aye
John

 

Message 8 - Reminiscences

Posted on: 31 August 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

John -
absolutely no question regarding wastage rates of very young subalterns, in Italy also - we lost a fair few.My wife's brother in law went all through with 50th Geordie Div - BEF - Alamein - Tunis - Sicily - NW Europe - wounded three times ! However as a runner close to world class (Ahem) 440yds x .51sec
WR 440 x 47.9 secs...I think I may have beaten you to the hot tub slit trench ! We were the original D-Day Dodgers !

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